Several months ago, Laura Purdie Salas pitched an idea to our poetry writing group: why not pick a poem and "talk back" to it? As we built our schedule for this year, she didn't claim that idea, so I picked it up; it was too good not to use. And it seemed the perfect idea for April, National Poetry Month.
Here is the poem I picked, and the rules:
You, darkness, of whom I am born---
I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.
But the dark embraces everything
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations---just as they are.
It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me
I believe in the night.
---Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Hours, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
1) Respond to the poem/poet however you like...by agreeing or disputing or supplementing ....or simply chatting, as to a friend. Be deep or be sassy. Be funny or sad. Use a formal form or free verse. Respond to the whole poem---or pull out one line and talk only to it. (That last option is for the introverts, haha)
2) But...you must be conversational. Talk back, right?
I must say that I enjoyed this challenge. I love Rilke and I love good conversation. If only he were alive to keep the volley going....
By God, Rilke, you have shed light
to the ends of the universe,
even. You have left nothing
unloved. You have rendered unto me
what is not mine to have: an undying
understanding of grace. Shouldn’t
poets—like Sujata Bhatt, perhaps—
enamor you of cow dung, until you crave
its pungent disregard of public opinion?
Shouldn’t poets—like Mary Oliver perhaps—
lure you to the wilds and then sharply switch
you with rebukes to change your life?
Shouldn’t they—like Kay Ryan, perhaps—
suffer you to suck brine, slapping the waves
for the raft you were building, right THERE, a second ago?
Shouldn’t they withhold embraces and comfort,
looking at you as blankly as an olive,
which by its ancient and pungent salty succor says:
oh, did you think you could outdo me?
Oh, Rilke, I want to love what is
beyond the circle, illuminated.
But you—you have forgiven me.
Where I am to go, then, to find
your beloved night?
—-Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)
For more conversation, please go see how my poetry sisters responded to Rilke. Or join in. There's always room for one more at the poetry table.
Poetry Friday is hosted today by Irene at Live Your Poem.